BY: AMY HABEN
Bryan Ferry was working as a part-time furniture restorer and ceramics teacher when he met art school graduate Brian Eno in 1970. At the time, the fledgling musicians had no idea the success their partnership would create. Eno and Ferry, along with Roxy Music founding member Andy Mackay, would combine their art school backgrounds and interest in avant-garde music to create an irresistible sound and enduring style.
The story of Roxy Music’s formation is one of happy accidents and common interests. Eno was simply lending his Ferrograph tape recorder to future Roxy Music saxophonist Andy Mackay to record demos. Mackay and the lithe, cross-dressing Eno were old college friends who shared a love of avant-garde and electronic music. Eno was mainly interested in electronic gadgets and had always considered himself a “non-musician,” but learned to play the synth. With these roots, the group perfected a style that combined pop-art aesthetics with cybernetics, punk, and old-fashioned rock & roll.
When I think of the major bands that defined the glam rock genre, David Bowie, T. Rex, and Roxy Music are first to come to mind. Roxy Music’s over-the-top costumes, glitter make-up, feathers, platform boots and jumpsuits wowed my teenage brain and paired perfectly with Bryan Ferry’s bizarre vocal style. I followed Eno’s solo career and have an affinity for his childlike wonder when it comes to instruments. Eno and Ferry had a well-known competition between them, especially when it came to the fairer sex. In a revealing documentary on Eno’s life, he admitted that more girls flocked to him, rather than Ferry, during Roxy Music’s heyday.
I pounced on the opportunity to purchase tickets to Bryan Ferry at the Beacon Theatre this year, as I heard the 70-year-old singer doesn’t perform very often and may be out of inspiration. Nick Cave portrayed Ferry in his book, The Sick Bag Song, as lounging in his pool, confessing that he hasn’t written a song in three years because there is nothing to write about.
“I feel slightly guilty about revealing that in the book,” Mr. Cave admitted to Alexandra Alter in her New York Times interview from April of 2015.
Upon entering the lavish Beacon Theatre, I noticed I was one of few people without gray hair reminding me of the comment, “You’re an old soul,” I’ve heard since my teens. My fourth-row seat gave me a clear view of the stage. A wheelchair-bound man sitting near me recounted his allegiance to Ferry and Roxy Music by attending every NYC gig since the ’70s.
Ferry entered the stage wearing a sharp burgundy and grey striped jacket, his well-cut silver hair framing his handsome, yet aging, face. His backup band played a few songs I didn’t recognize, making the fear well up in my throat that this might be all newer work. Then the lyrics, “Valerie… please believe it could never work out,” and Roxy Music’s, “Beauty Queen” began. His famous quirky, trembling vocals gracing the atmosphere to a roar of cheers.
“Ladytron” came next with some of my favorite lyrics, “I’ll find some way of connection/ Hiding my intention/ Then I’ll move up close to you/ I’ll use you and I’ll confuse you/ And then I’ll lose you/ Still you won’t suspect me.” An intelligent predator’s plan of creating heartbreak only to satisfy his hormonal impulses.
As a spotlight descended down upon the statuesque crooner, the mood of the room shifted as he sang Bob Dylan’s, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” off his album of Dylan covers. I’ve never been a huge fan of the highly emulated, folk singer and was surprised by myself when the tears began to well up in my eyes. It was a powerful rendition worthy of his effort.
Bryan sat down at his keyboard for the eerily delightful, “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” showing off his impressive self-taught key skills. The build-up for one of the best breakdowns in rock & roll lit up by a dark green glow. Fans stood up to dance after the lyric, “But you blew my mind,” as the guitarist was perched at the tip of the stage for his sexy solo, causing post-menopausal women to sway back and forth with their hands in the air like the cheerleaders in the music video for Nirvana’s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
The female backup singer reminded me of Mary Clayton, with an outstanding vocal range and sustainability. His young, attractive sax player was also a star of the backup crew getting her own applause after solos. “Love Is The Drug,” is one of my favorite dance hits but unfortunately, they changed the tempo a bit on that one.
After the show, fans lined up to meet Ferry at the back door. I watched with a woman in her sixties from across the street. We commiserated at the dorkiness of stalking a rockstar just for a close glimpse or autograph. We ate our words, though, as the charming singer descended onto the concrete, we ran over across the street without any thought.
Overall this show isn’t one to miss. I came home singing joyously, having witnessed one of the best performances of my life.
*The Bryan Ferry Avonmore tour continues on 8/11 at Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.
SETLIST: Bryan Ferry @ Beacon Theatre 7/29/2016
Slave to Love
Don’t Stop the Dance
Beauty Queen (Roxy Music song)
Ladytron (Roxy Music song)
Oh Yeah (Roxy Music song)
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Bob Dylan cover)
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Jerome Kern cover)
Stronger Through the Years (Roxy Music song)
Tara (Roxy Music song)
Take a Chance with Me (Roxy Music song)
In Every Dream Home a Heartache (Roxy Music song)
If There Is Something (Roxy Music song)
More Than This (Roxy Music song)
Avalon (Roxy Music song) (followed by a band introduction)
Love Is the Drug (Roxy Music song)
Virginia Plain (Roxy Music song)
Re-Make/Re-Model (Roxy Music song)
Let’s Stick Together (Wilbert Harrison cover)
Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover)
Editions of You (Roxy Music song)